The Antonov An-124 Ruslan was designed in the mid-1970s to replace the turboprop-powered Antonov An-22 "Cock". It is slightly larger than its U.S. counterpart, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, but smaller than the An-225 "Cossack" which was originally designed to carry the Russian space shuttle. The first prototype (SSSR 82002, Number 318) flew on 26 December 1982 and made its public debut at the Paris Air Show in 1985. It entered active service with Aeroflot in 1986.
Except for having a low-mounted tailplane, the An-124's general configuration is very similar to that of the C-5. It has an upward-hinged visor-type nose and rear fuselage ramp/door configuration to allow front and rear drive-on loading/unloading. Unlike the Galaxy, loads are positioned using two electric traveling cranes with a total lifting capacity of 44,100 pounds (20,000kg).
The upper-deck is pressurized and can accommodate 88 troops/passengers in the rear section, aft of the wing. The lower-deck, primarily for freight, is pressurized to a lower differential than the upper-deck and cannot be used normally for passenger carrying.
The 24-wheel landing gear system (two nose and ten main wheel bogies, five per side, each with two wheels) enables the aircraft to operate from unprepared fields, hard packed snow, and ice-covered swampland. It also has a "kneeling" capability which aides in loading/unloading operations.
All electrical systems are quadruple redundant and provide the capability to execute airlift and airdrop missions by day or night, in visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) weather conditions. There are 34 computers functioning aboard the aircraft, combined into four main systems: navigation, automatic piloting, remote control and monitoring.
The integrated flight control and aiming-navigation system is comprised of an autonomous navigation system, altitude and airspeed indicating system, combat formation flight control equipment, short-range radio navigation and landing system, global positioning system (GPS), automatic radio compass, ground surveillance radar, forward-looking weather radar, optical and TV sight, and IFF equipment.
On 26 July 1985, the An-124 set 21 official records by lifting a payload of 377,473 pounds (171,219kg) to an altitude of 35,269 feet (10,750m).
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